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General Forums => Generic Discussion => Topic started by: kchieppo on October 02, 2019, 05:35:49 PM

Title: Seeking to connect with climate scientists
Post by: kchieppo on October 02, 2019, 05:35:49 PM
Hi. I'm a 27-year-old guy who normally works in software engineering. However, I'm always learning something new, and have an interest in protecting the climate. I was hoping to connect with people who could lead me on the right path, or at least meet some scientists with whom I could discuss ideas. I'm in a situation right now where I feel like I have to work in software to pay off the rest of my student loans, but if the sky was the limit, I would go back to school for some kind of research related to fixing climate change.

All that aside, I have watched a free lecture series on edX about climate science, and am reading Introduction to Carbon Capture and Sequestration by (I believe) four CalTech professors. I'm not a chemist, so I've been refreshing on the chemistry I have seen and have been learning about more chemistry as I read the book. Right now, the book has got me thinking about ways to sequester CO2 from the atmosphere in a non-chemical way.

What would you guys think about a possible solution involving molecular filters? Is this possible and practical? I haven't gone as far as devising even a rudimentary cost-benefit analysis, but I was thinking it would be possible to build a sort of tower where only CO2 could enter via a filter. Perhaps a vacuum could be maintained inside the tower to entice nearby CO2 to enter. Then there would be another subsystem that would suck the CO2 from the chamber, condense it, and store it. I don't remember or know much about the mechanics of photosynthesis, but I believe stomata are functionally equivalent to "biological molecular filters". Has there been much research done on the exact mechanics of photosynthesis, and perhaps ways to artificially accelerate it?

Thanks for reading. Looking forward to hearing your insights.
Title: Re: Seeking to connect with climate scientists
Post by: Corribus on October 03, 2019, 09:44:34 AM
These kinds of technologies are great but honestly none of it means much if we (and by echo, our politicians) don't first be honest about the truth that we are changing our climate. Generally, the first step to solving a problem is to agree that the problem exists.

If you're interested in climate science, you might consider picking up the book "The Madhouse Effect" by Michael Mann, a leading climate scientist from (IIRC) Penn State.

Title: Re: Seeking to connect with climate scientists
Post by: Enthalpy on October 03, 2019, 02:57:32 PM
The very first hurdle in fixing climate change is the cost. As compared to human technology, our planet is huge. Extracting dioxide from the air needs incredible amounts of hardware, and generally the first cost estimate answers "impossible" by factors like thousand to one billion.

Pressure Swing Absorption (PSA) too is a way to separate gases, but how big the construction, how inefficient on that scale?
We might also cycle CaO and CaCO3, using sunlight to crack the carbonate, but - same question.

The most advanced attempt doesn't even separate dioxide from the air. It just takes the dioxide where it is produced in a concentrated form, like lime factories or electricity plants. The ambition is only to compress it and inject in existing reservoirs, like abandoned oil and gas fields. Or as a variant, combine it with silicates to make silica and carbonates. Guess what? Even that became too expensive and was abandoned during the 2008+ crisis when emission bonds got cheaper.

The cost scale is that oil costs 0.5$/L, 1kg emits roughly 3kg dioxide, and sequestration should add little cost to that. Damn difficult.
Title: Re: Seeking to connect with climate scientists
Post by: kchieppo on October 03, 2019, 06:54:49 PM
Corribus, I am very well aware that the root causes of the problem are an uneducated population, mass disinformation campaigns funded by Koch Industries (and maybe other big oil companies - I don't know), and many of these Republicans in power who are not convinced that climate change is a problem or willing to do anything about it anyway. I want to emphasize that I respect Republicans, but this current administration leaves a lot left to be desired. Anyway, because I feel totally powerless vs these big idiots with a lot of power, I figured I'd focus on my strength: science.

I took a look at that book and will consider reading it, but I have a lot I want to read right now. Thanks.

Enthalpy, it certainly is the cost. Again, if we didn't have foolish people in power right now, I'm thinking the best way to reduce it would be through government intervention.

I'm looking up PSA - don't know much about that.

The most advanced attempt you're talking about I believe is carbon capture technology, where the CO2 is captured at the source and stored. I remember the book (that I'm reading) mentioning the cost of these systems being a problem for power plants.

Ugh, I don't know. Thanks for your responses, guys.
Title: Re: Seeking to connect with climate scientists
Post by: Enthalpy on October 04, 2019, 06:20:08 AM
If it were only the Republicans! The oil industry corrupts politicians of all parties in all countries. The other problem is that oil, gas and coal are extremely cheap: drill the soil, collect the oil, light it and you have heat. Competing against that is extremely difficult. Presently and after big efforts, renewables are cheaper than nuclear electricity, and that's all. Electricity for cars is cheaper than gasoline only because the user pays 20% taxes on it instead of 400%. Governments don't want to abandon these huge incomes.

You may notice that the same propagandists advocate nuclear energy "because zero carbon" as well as oil. This tells that they don't work for oil companies. After a hurricane (Sandy?), Obama closed the CIA's Climate cell (or group, I don't know their English name), and the propaganda activity dropped a lot. The other groups remain.

Individuals can do a lot. Elon Musk lets build electric cars that are desirable, while other companies made only ugly sluggish big toys. His company offers good batteries for home or plant size whose price and endurance are competitive. This does tackle climate change, without the governments, and in many countries against them.

Scientists who improve lithium batteries or develop sodium ones bring much to renewables. Or better, improve the cost and efficiency of power lines as long as a continent, to harvest wind where available.

Storage is one enabling technology for renewables. Developing underwater bags, underwater concrete vacuum spheres, flywheels, cheaper than batteries, would make a difference

CO2 storage would let use cheap fossil fuels in some uses, typically electricity plants, not cars. Useful goal, more or less at reach, but it failed recently.

As compared, capturing CO2 from the air is damn difficult. Technically and economically, but not only. Who shall pay for it while it brings no money? Europeans will answer "I don't pay to remove what the Chinese emit".

Whether we'll base the storage and transport of energy on hydrogen some day, I don't know. For helicopters and aeroplanes it looks fantastic, for cars and buildings I'm not sure

Presently I believe fusion reactors of all kinds are a dead end because the regeneration of tritium, if any possible, will be as polluting as uranium fission. But if you find a practical and clean way, I'll happily change my mind.